An important federal case is underway that every Trump supporter, and probably every American of every political stripe, should be concerned with. A man named Doug Mackey posted an internet joke – a meme – on Twitter back in 2016. That joke came back to haunt him years later. Within days of Joe Biden’s fake inauguration behind razor wire and 20,000 troops, Doug Mackey was arrested by the FBI because of that meme. Mackey’s trial is just getting underway, and he faces 10 years in prison.
Mackey went by the internet moniker “Ricky Vaughn” on Twitter, named after Charlie Sheen’s character in the movie Major League. Vaughn/Mackey was one of the meme warriors who came out in favor of Donald Trump in 2016. He and his friends were constantly posting and sharing memes that made fun of Hillary Clinton, along with people who were foolish enough to vote for her.
Doug Mackey was telling jokes. That’s it. They weren’t vulgar jokes. They were just funny.
The meme that got Mackey arrested by the FBI, and now prosecuted by the DOJ, was aimed at Hillary Clinton voters. It read, “Avoid the line. Vote from home. Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925. Vote for Hillary and be a part of history.”
This is an old joke that dates back at least to the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. People have used the same joke as Mackey did multiple times before and after he tweeted it, and were never prosecuted. One Democrat voter used a variation of the joke on Twitter during the 2020 election. She urged Trump-supporting Asian voters to “Vote on November 9th, 2020.” The election, of course, was the day before that date. She’s never taken the tweet down, and Joe Biden isn’t having one of his own voters persecuted for telling the same joke.
The law that the DOJ is using to try to prosecute Mackey is 18 USC 241. The law reads:
“If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States,” and so on.
The law was designed to prevent Democrats from violently injuring black people in the South to try to prevent them from voting on Election Day. Does telling a joke rise to the level of violence? In Joe Biden’s eyes, it does. Doug Mackey deserves 10 years in prison somehow, for telling a stale joke.
There are several interesting things to watch for in this case.
First, the government is not arguing that Doug Mackey actually harmed anyone with this joke. The DOJ cannot produce a single person who says they were duped into voting via text message in 2016.
Second, the FBI sent an informant or agent in to attach themselves to Mackey long before he sent out the “offending” meme. Sending out jokes on the internet was Doug Mackey’s hobby. Federal prosecutors are trying to prevent the jury from finding out the identity of this informant, even though there’s no indication that doing so would endanger the informant. Why don’t they want us to know this person’s identity? The other thing that’s remarkable about this is that if you have a following of several hundred people on social media, the federal government sets up a surveillance grid around you in order to track and spy on your every move. If they did this to Vaughn, they’re almost certainly doing it to many more Americans.
And finally, no American has ever before faced 10 years in prison for engaging in what is obviously First Amendment-protected political speech. We’re Americans. We’re allowed to make fun of our politicians without the threat of being thrown in prison. Or at least we used to be.